The Morning Column: March 14, 2022
The Lakers fail to show up in Sunday's blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns.
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1. The Lakers lost to the Phoenix Suns, 140-111, on Sunday. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Suns have beaten the Lakers in their last six meetings by an average margin of 18 points.
The Lakers are just a bad team. They’re 29-38 and have just one more win than the No. 10 seed New Orleans Pelicans. They haven’t been a .500 team since beating the Brooklyn Nets, 106-96, on Jan. 25 to improve to 24-24 on the season. Since then, they are 5-14 and have lost 7 of their last 9 games.
The biggest issue I had with the Lakers on Sunday was that they didn’t even bother to show up for the first quarter. Even in games the Lakers have been blown out this season, they have at least pretended to care for a few minutes after the opening tip. I mean just look at this effort just three minutes into the game.
The Lakers gave up 48 points to the Suns in the first quarter. 48 POINTS! The Lakers have never given up that many points in the first quarter in the history of their storied franchise. Not as the Los Angeles Lakers, not as the Minneapolis Lakers, not ever.
After the game, LeBron James was shown smiling as he walked off the court following another blowout loss. I’m not going to get on him for the terrible optics of enjoying a laugh after a 29-point loss. If anything, it was actually a fitting finish to a game the Lakers didn’t seem to care much about to begin with.
2. Anthony Davis gave the Suns some bulletin board material before Sunday’s game when he was asked if his groin injury, which sidelined him for much of the Lakers’ first round series against the Suns, was the reason the Suns beat them last year.
“It was,” he told reporters. “We know that. They know that. They got away with one.”
I understand Suns players and fans taking exception to that but he’s right. If the Lakers were healthy last season, they would have beaten the Suns. That should have been clear to anyone who actually watched the series.
The Lakers were up 2-1 in the series and were leading late in the second quarter of Game 4 in Los Angeles with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead when Davis was injured. The Suns outscored the Lakers 27-15 in the third quarter and won the next three games to advance to the second round.
Davis was the Lakers’ leading scorer in the two games they beat the Suns – tallying 34 points and 11 rebounds in each win – and the Lakers were leading in Game 4 in Los Angeles when he was injured so he’s not exactly going out on a limb by saying the Lakers would have won Game 4 and the series if he had been healthy.
3. Some people had fun with Davis’ pregame comments and put them side by side with the final score of Sunday’s game. Of course, this season’s Lakers team is nothing like last season’s team or the team that won the championship just 17 months ago.
On March 20, 2021, for example, the Lakers were 28-13, the No. 2 seed in the West and just two games behind the Utah Jazz for the best record in the NBA. They were the favorites to repeat as champions. And then James was injured and sidelined indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. He was placed on the injured list along with Davis, who had already missed 14 straight games with a right calf injury. James and Davis combined to miss 83 games last season. When they were healthy, the Lakers looked like the best team in the league. The problem was they were almost never healthy following a ridiculously short 71-day offseason.
Could James and Davis rediscover some of that magic before the end of this season and make some noise in the playoffs? It doesn’t seem likely. Again, this team, isn’t last season’s team, which was better than anyone gave them credit for when they were healthy. They don’t have Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Markieff Morris and Jared Dudley. They tore that team up in favor of this mismatched train wreck.
Let’s say the season ended today and the Lakers finished as the No. 9 seed and faced the No. 10 seed Pelicans in the Play-In Tournament. The Pelicans beat the Lakers, 123-95, the last time those two teams played each other on Feb. 27 in Los Angeles. Even if the Lakers won that game, they would likely have to play the Clippers in the next game just to make it into the first round and the Clippers have beaten the Lakers in their last seven meetings and blew them out 132-111 the last time they faced off on March 3. I just don’t see the Lakers having enough time with only 15 games left in the season to find that chemistry and make it into the first round.
4. One of the saddest and most under covered stories in sports right now is that WNBA star Britney Griner has been detained in Russa for one month now with no updates on her status or well-being. We need to stop leading this story (for those outlets actually covering it) by saying she has been detained on drug charges. While technically correct, that’s not the real story anymore. They found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. I’m not excusing that but we have to stop acting like this is a legitimate reason she is essentially being held hostage for a month with no release in sight.
5. Leave it to Tom Brady to upstage “March Madness” and “Selection Sunday” by announcing his return to football just one month after the NFL season ended. Does a retirement really even count as a retirement if it lasts less than one month? I love that Brady, who will turn 45 years old during training camp, said he is returning for “unfinished business.” Relative to what? Brady has won seven Super Bowls, five Super Bowl MVPs, three NFL MVPs, and is the all-time leader in quarterback wins, passing attempts, passing completions, passing touchdowns, and passing yards. I think he finished all the business that can possibly be finished a while ago.
6. The NCAA Tournament officially begins Tuesday and Wednesday with the “First Four” games and continues Thursday and Friday with the first round games and Saturday and Sunday with the second round games. It is arguably the best weekend of the year to be in Las Vegas. We’ll be doing The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio in Southern California and 98.5 The Fan in Las Vegas from Circa on Thursday and Friday. Here’s what Circa in Las Vegas looked like last March Madness.
7. Here are some odds if you’re thinking about placing a wager today brought to you by Circa Sports.
8. Here’s the local pro sports schedule for today brought to you by Yaamava’.
4:00 p.m. Los Angeles Clippers at Cleveland Cavaliers – Bally Sports SoCal
7:30 p.m. Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers – Spectrum SportsNet
9. Here are the “get in” price for a ticket on TickPick if you want to go to a game today.
Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers – $28
10. On Friday’s The Arash Markazi Show, we talked about Major League Baseball coming back and talked March Madness with Jeffrey Benson of Circa Sports.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio in Southern California following The Rich Eisen Show and on 98.5 The Fan in Las Vegas following The Jim Rome Show. The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio has one of the strongest radio signals in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies” and 98.5 The Fan is the home of college football and the Los Angeles Chargers in Las Vegas. You can listen to The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio anywhere with your free TuneIn app or ask your smart speaker to “Play The Mightier 1090.” You can listen to 98.5 The Fan anywhere with your free Audacy app or ask your smart speaker to “Play The Fan Las Vegas.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and BLEAV.
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